Originally created 08/29/98

Falcons coach disappointed by loss



SUWANEE, Ga. -- For the first time in two seasons Monday, Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Reeves looked beaten down.

Fatigue after a late-night flight from San Francisco certainly was a contributor, but Reeves also seemed more affected than usual by Sunday's 31-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

"After looking at the film, I'm probably a little more disappointed than I was after the game," he said. "I thought they came out like they were the team trying to prove something rather than us being the aggressor and needing to show something."

Reeves rested his chin on his palm while leaning against a podium during the informal press conference. His tone and mannerisms were reminiscent of former Falcons coach June Jones jingling the change in his pocket and staring at his shoes during press conferences after big losses in San Francisco.

Asked if the game was a rude awakening as to the talent gap between the Falcons and 49ers, Reeves replied tersely, "I think I said that already. It was a measuring stick for us, and it showed we've got a long way to go."

The 31-20 score was misleading because the 49ers dominated the first half about as thoroughly as one team can beat another. The halftime score was 31-7, and the 49ers put up 394 of their 538 yards in the first two quarters.

After surrendering 387 passing yards to Steve Young, the Falcons dropped to last place in the NFL in pass defense and No. 28 in total defense. Their run defense, which was No. 1 two weeks ago, fell to sixth.

Moreover, the 49ers exposed vulnerabilities that future opponents will almost certainly try to exploit. Most notably, the Falcons couldn't couldn't match up with the 49ers when they used spread formations with three or four receivers.

Nickel cornerback Juran Bolden was beaten by Jerry Rice for two touchdowns, and second-year corner Michael Booker, who also came in as an extra DB, was victimized several times.

Reeves indicated that Randy Fuller, a free agent acquisition from Pittsburgh who has struggled with a hamstring injury since early in camp, could see an increased role.

Another concern is the offensive line, which hasn't played well all year. Quarterback Chris Chandler was sacked seven times Sunday after going down nine times in the previous two games. Rookie right tackle Ephraim Salaam and rookie guard Bob Hallen, who made his NFL debut Sunday, were rocked by the 49ers.

At least one change is forthcoming, Reeves said. Undrafted rookie free agent Jose Portilla will begin sharing time at right tackle with Salaam.

"The improvement you'd like to see in Ephraim, we're not getting," Reeves said. "You see him repeating the same things, and we can't keep getting one or two sacks a game (through) that position."

On the positive side, the Falcons are 2-1, and they'll be playing a lot of teams that aren't as good as the 49ers, including the 0-3 Carolina Panthers Sunday in the Georgia Dome.

They did shut out the 49ers in the second half and score a pair of touchdowns. Running back Jamal Anderson and receiver Terance Mathis both had exceptional days, statistically.

"I certainly didn't predict we were going to be undefeated," Reeve said. "Our goal was to make the playoffs, and I think that's still a reasonable goal for us."